Points of Progress: Afghanistan’s historic district revival, and more

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

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Afghan artisans are restoring buildings in the historic Murad Khani district of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan

Kabul’s oldest district, Murad Khani, is experiencing a steady revival. With beginnings in the 18th century, Murad Khani – an area known for its architecture covered in handcarved ornate wood designs – faced neglect and destruction after decades of war. Since 2006, however, locals have rallied to reverse this decline and have already restored 150 buildings. The community effort has served as an opportunity to educate youth about the city’s history and the art of traditional wood carving. (The Guardian)

Kenya

It will soon be easier to finance a home here. Kenya has struggled to provide for its rapidly growing urban population and is running a deficit of 150,000 housing units each year. Affordable housing is especially hard to find. Poor market conditions have also resulted in limited opportunities for Kenyans to get approved for mortgages. New interest rate caps have led to banks upping their credit standards and consequently excluding middle- and low-income potential homebuyers. A $250 million loan from the World Bank as of June 30 plans to triple the number of urban households with access to mortgages. (The East African)

Argentina

Silvopasture has spread its roots in Argentine agriculture. An alternative to conventional cattle-ranching, silvopasture combines trees, forage plants, and cattle. The relationship among trees, cattle, and grasses is mutually beneficial, according to an agronomist. Shade trees help regulate cattle’s temperature while also sequestering carbon and preventing soil erosion. The use of pesticides is also reduced, as birds are attracted to the trees and feed on the insects. Some 370,000 acres of planted silvopasture lands exist in Argentina. Critics say that planted silvopasture could lead to diminished biodiversity, but advocates argue that can be avoided through intentionally integrating a variety of native plants. (China Dialogue)

United States

For five years in a row, the U.S. has focused on the leaders of tomorrow by increasing the amount it spends per pupil in all 50 states. The Learning Policy Institute has found that the amount of money invested in schooling directly affects a student’s future success, provided that spending is equitable. A Northwestern University study in 2015 found that low-income students earn almost 10% more in their lifetime and are 6% less prone to fall below the poverty line as adults when 10% more money per pupil is spent each year over the course of their education. The study concluded that effective per pupil spending could eliminate the gap between low-income and above-poverty-level families. While per pupil spending has steadily risen, teacher salaries have lagged. Most teachers must work additional part-time jobs to make ends meet. (United States Census Bureau)

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Increased per pupil spending leads low-income students to more success.

Thailand

Supermarkets in Thailand are taking green packaging to another level. Food packaging is mostly waste and is required only for the relatively short trip from market to kitchen. A supermarket in Chiang Mai introduced banana leaves as wrappers for fresh produce as an alternative to single-use plastic bags, and customers began posting photos about it on Facebook. The trend soon spread across Thailand and Vietnam. Banana leaves are just one of many ways that supermarkets are experimenting with alternatives to plastic globally. (Vice)

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